Courses - Fall 2020

AFRAMER 11  Introduction to African Studies

Agbiboa, Daniel - This course introduces students to the rich diversity and complexity of Africa, including its historical dynamics, economic developments, social and political practices, and popular cultures. Throughout, we assume that Africa is not a unique isolate but a continent bubbling with internal diversity, historical change, entrepreneurial spirit, and cultural links beyond its shores. Our goal is to train students to think rigorously about Africa from interdisciplinary and transnational perspectives. We also aim to equip students with the analytical tools necessary for recognizing and deconstructing reductionist and stereotyped narratives of Africa. The course is open to all students who are interested in exploring various dimensions of African life, politics, peoples and cultures from the past to the postcolony.

AFRAMER 20  Introduction to African Languages and Cultures

Mugane, John M - This introduction to African languages and cultures explores how sub-Saharan Africans use language to understand, organize, and transmit (culture, history, etc.) indigenous knowledge to successive generations. Language serves as a road map to comprehending how social, political, and economic institutions and processes develop: from kinship structures and the evolution of political offices to trade relations and the transfer of environmental knowledge. As a Social Engagement course, AAAS 20 will wed scholarly inquiry and academic study to practical experience and personal involvement in the community. Students will be given the opportunity to study Africans, their languages, and their cultures from the ground up, not only through textbooks and data sets but through personal relationships, cultural participation, and inquisitive explorations of local African heritage communities. Throughout the semester you will be asked to employ video production, ethnographic research, creative writing, "social-portraiture," GIS mapping, and linguistic study as you engage with Africans, their languages, and their cultures. By examining linguistic debates and cultural traditions and interrogating their import in the daily lives of Boston-area Africans, we hope to bridge the divide between grand theories and everyday practices, between intellectual debates and the lived experiences of individuals, between the American academy and the African world. Ultimately, this course aims to place Africans themselves in the center of the academic study of Africa.

AFRAMER 91R  Supervised Reading and Research

Carpio, Glenda R. - Students wishing to enroll must petition the Director of Undergraduate Studies for approval, stating the proposed project, and must have permission of the proposed instructor. Ordinarily, students are required to have taken some coursework as background for their project.

AFRAMER 98  Junior Tutorial - African American Studies

Carpio, Glenda R. - Students wishing to enroll must petition the Director of Undergraduate Studies for approval, stating the proposed project, and must have the permission of the proposed instructor. Ordinarily, students are required to have taken some coursework as background for their project.

AFRAMER 98A  Junior Tutorial - African Studies

Carpio, Glenda R. - Students wishing to enroll must petition the Director of Undergraduate Studies for approval, stating the proposed project, and must have the permission of the proposed instructor. Ordinarily, students are required to have taken some coursework as background for their project.

AFRAMER 99A  Senior Thesis Workshop

Carpio, Glenda R. - Thesis supervision under the direction of a member of the Department. Part one of a two part series.

AFRAMER 128X  People as Infrastructure: The Politics of Urban Infrastructure in Africa

Agbiboa, Daniel - Infrastructures are commonly defined in physical terms or material forms (e.g. roads, buildings, power supplies) and are said to impose productivity on the city and positionality on its inhabitants. In this course, however, we will extend the notion of infrastructure directly to social networks and the evolving process of negotiation between state and nonstate urban actors with power differentials and competing interests. Taking inspiration from AbdouMaliq Simone’s notion of “people as infrastructure,” this course will examine collective agency, alliances and transnational organizing among urban residents and groups who are economically marginalized and socially excluded from modernizing processes of urban planning and reform in Africa. We will interrogate African cities as networked spaces characterized by fluid and precarious interdependence between formal and informal actors in particular sectors. The course will bring together two central dimensions of infrastructure in urban Africa. First, infrastructural power: how infrastructure constitutes a privileged institutional channel for governance, regulation, and contestation in urban Africa. Second, infrastructural lives: the everyday experience and politics of urban infrastructures in Africa.

AFRAMER 129XA  Philosophy, Social Thought, and Criticism in African American Studies:  Graduate Workshop Seminar

Terry, Brandon Michael - A year-long graduate research and reading course exploring classic and contemporary efforts to develop interdisciplinary approaches drawn from philosophy, intellectual history, social and political theory, and socio-cultural criticism to explore central questions and thinkers in the field of African American Studies. With visiting scholars, students will engage recent work in the discipline, including the ethics of the oppressed, the dynamics of white supremacy, the relationship between racism and capitalism, intersectionality, the interpretation of African American intellectuals, and more. The course is for students who have an interest in pursuing independent research in African American Studies informed by these disciplinary approaches and their field-defining debates. Students must complete both terms of this course (parts A and B) within the same academic year in order to receive credit.

AFRAMER 134X  How Sweet is it to be Loved By You: Black Love and the Emotional Politics of Respect

Morgan, Marcyliena; Kincaid, Jamaica - The word 'love' is almost never used in any portrayal or description of the African American community's daily life in contemporary media and in the social sciences. But love, as a human experience, is central to our understanding of what it means to be a vital member of a culture and society and thus respected, nurtured, etc.  This seminar examines the love that difference makes.   It is a comprehensive study of the representation of gender, love and sexuality in African American and African Diasporan culture.  It introduces students to some of the principal questions of feminist theory, as viewed from the social sciences and humanities including anthropology, psychology, media studies and literature. Love, in all its many forms: familial, erotic, romantic, fraternal, is abundant, sometimes dominant, in black culture in the form of song, film, poetry and rhyme, and literature. This course will review and analyze the ‘look of Black love’ in the humanities and social sciences and writings on intersubjectivity, family, language, culture and ritual.  It will also look at the absence of love within and toward the African American community as well as love’s role in movements like Black Lives Matter.  We will closely read, watch and listen to some of the many Black artists who have looked deeply at this thing called Love.   How Sweet it Is explores and analyzes Black Love from disciplinary, social and cultural perspectives including: family, romance, gender, sexuality, racism, and physical and emotional health, institutions and space, place and home.

AFRAMER 145X  The Hiphop Cipher: "These are the Breaks"

Morgan, Marcyliena; Douthit, Patrick - "The Hiphop Cipher is an in-depth look at hiphop culture and production. It is for students who are familiar with hiphop as a cultural and artistic movement and enterprise and/or have taken courses on hiphop and popular music and culture. The focus of the course will be the year 1995. The course will closely examine a particular issue and topic and includes guest lecturers and master classes on areas or issues in hiphop culture, art, scholarship and performance. Fall Winter 2020 will feature Artist in Residence and Grammy Winning producer 9th Wonder (Patrick Douthit).

These are the Breaks: The connection between vinyl from the 60's, 70's and 80's and birth of what we now know as hip-hop music, is a connection that is known by producers, DJ's and collectors of music, but not to academia. Various political, cultural, and social movements of the 1960's created an environment for the stories of soul, jazz, and funk produced in the 1970's, which in turn created the platform for our most treasured hip-hop albums (Illmatic, The BluePrint, The Chronic, College Dropout, The Minstrel Show). ""Diggers"" from around the world travel from country to country, from record shop to basement, in search of the original ""breaks"" used for these albums, in some cases for 10+ years. This course examines the important break beats in hiphop and the cultural, political and social movements and contexts that the beats, songs and production represented."

AFRAMER 181X  African Religion in the Diaspora

Olupona, Jacob - This course focuses on the history and phenomenology of African peoples’ religious experiences in the Americas. The historical and social processes that led to the emergence of African diasporic religions in Latin America and the Caribbean will form the core of our reading materials. We will examine the role of myth, ritual, arts, and symbols as well as the social and political processes that explain the evolution of Black Atlantic religious traditions as formed by African indigenous traditions, African Christianity, and African Islam. Using historical, ethnographic, and textual sources, the course will illuminate the lived religious experiences of enslaved Africans as well as new immigrant diaspora communities in South America, the Caribbean, and the USA. We will examine Africana religious parallels and divergences in religious practice and social identity. Guests visitors will give lectures on various aspects of the course. Jointly offered in the Harvard Divinity School as a HDS 3689

AFRAMER 188Y  Writing Africa Today

Coulibaly, Bojana - Writing Africa Today examines literature of the extreme contemporary published across Africa and explores various forms and styles of literary representation engaging political, social and cultural concern, faith and spirituality, oral history and collective memory, modernity, technology, social and environmental justice, gender equality, poetics and identity. We will focus primarily on the novel genre with narrative styles ranging from historical fiction, speculative fiction to retrospective narrative. Key theoretical concepts in literary and cultural studies as well as current debates on African literature will supplement our creative writing corpus which includes novels by Namwali Serpell, Ben Okri, Maaza Mengiste, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Masande Ntshanga, Zakes Mda, Aminata Forna, Tsitsi Dangarembga, and others.

AFRAMER 188Z  African Voices for Freedom, Citizenship and Social Justice

Coulibaly, Bojana - Freedom, citizenship and social justice in Africa will be the primary focus of this course as we explore activism and artivism through music, hip-hop, verbal and visual performance, slam poetry, street art, urban culture, and the media. We will build social and political portraits of activists and artivists, using digital tools of collaborative annotation and authoring/publishing multimedia-rich content that explore expressions of community engagement, student protest, counter-discourse, counterculture, political dissent, civil disobedience and political solidarity in Africa. We will look at contemporary activists such as Stella Nyanzi, Octopizzo, Sona Jabartheh, Keyti, Colonel Karbone 14, Bobi Wine, Docta, Elom 20ce, and others to understand some of the concerns faced by the youth and citizens in contemporary Africa.

AFRAMER 189Y  Sources of Interracial Economic Inequality in the United States

Cooke-Rivers, Jacqueline Olga - This course examines current and historical developments that have created, multiplied and maintained economic inequality between African Americans and whites in the United States. The oppression of slavery left a legacy of profound social and economic disadvantage among blacks. Though that has been ameliorated over time, a variety of subsequent government policies such as red lining in housing have perpetuated the inequities that plague the black community. In addition, other policies such as the New Deal that have been beneficial have had less impact for blacks because of explicit aspects of how they were designed. The continued vulnerability of black people has also made them less able to withstand economic shocks such as the Great Recession. While middle class blacks have made substantial economic progress, the entrenched nature of the economic interracial gap and its compounding effects pose a challenge for remediating the situation, especially for the black poor.

AFRAMER 197  Poverty, Race, and Health

Williams, David - This course critically examines the health status of the poor, and of African Americans and other socially disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups in the US. Attention will be focused on the patterned ways in which the health of these groups is embedded in the social, cultural, political, and economic contexts, and arrangements of US society. Topics covered include the meaning and measurement of race, the ways in which racism affects health, the historic uses of minorities in medical research, how acculturation and migration affects health, and an examination of the specific health problems that disproportionately affect nondominant racial groups.

AFRAMER 310  Individual Reading Tutorial

Allows students to work with an individual member of the faculty in a weekly tutorial.

AFRAMER 390  Individual Research

Requires students to identify and carry out a research project under the guidance of a member of the faculty. Graduate students may use this course to begin work on the research paper required for admission to candidacy.

AFRAMER 391  Directed Writing

Requires students to identify a major essay and carry it out under the guidance of a member of the faculty. Graduate students may use this course to begin to work on the research paper that is a requirement of admission to candidacy.

AFRAMER 392  Teaching, Writing, and Research

To be used to enroll in credits for teaching, writing, and research

AFRAMER 398  Reading and Research

Permission of the instructor and the Director of Graduate Studies is required for enrollment.

AFRAMER 399  Direction of Doctoral Dissertations